Saturday, 31 January 2015

Essex Walks - Steeples

essex walks - steeplesessex walks - steeples
essex walks - steeples
essex walks - steeples
essex walks - steeples
essex walks - steeplesessex walks - steeples

A little different to the previous two walks this route near Maldon takes you around the Blackwater Estuary where on a cold day like this no one can be seen for miles. The route was easy to follow and took around two hours to complete, mainly sticking to the sea wall, passing a holiday park, which of course in January was pretty empty. Although the Essex Walks site talks of views across the creek to Osea Island the winter fog made these a little difficult to see!

I really enjoyed this route and would like to walk it again in a few months time once the weather improves - I definitely would have been happier had it not been so cold!

You can find out more about this walk including a map and directions on the Essex Walks website.

Click here to catch up on my last Essex Walks post!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

January Reads & Reviews

january reads 2015

Briar Rose, Jana Oliver (2013)
Briar Rose is cursed, she just doesn’t know it yet. On her sixteenth birthday Briar is destined to go to sleep and never wake up. When the time comes she finds herself stranded in a fairy tale land where an evil regent reigns whilst the ‘sleeping beauty’ princess is trapped in a deep sleep. With the help of new ‘cousin’ Ruric and her friends who manage to land themselves in the fairy tale too Briar must break the curse and escape if she or her friends are to survive back in the real world.
Not my usual type of book Briar Rose caught my attention after seeing a few other bloggers talk about it and since my local library had a copy I decided to give the modern day fairy tale a chance. I didn’t fall in love with the book but was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed it more than I had expected to. ✯✯✯

Melissa Explains It All, Melissa Joan Hart (2014) 
This autobiography, or collection of anicdotes from Melissa's life, follows her career from her start in commercials as a child through to her theatre days and big TV break portraying Clarissa in her teens. She talks candidly about her experiences both on and off set and shares stories about friends, family and colleagues including some recognisable (and some surprising) names. Later in the book Melissa talks about juggling life as a mother with her ongoing career and current role as Mel Burke on ABC's hit sitcom Melissa and Joey.
For me the book kicked off to a promising start and I was interested to learn how Melissa, who's famous sitcoms I grew up watching, got into the industry. Just quickly scanning through Goodreads I can see the book has received quite a few negative reviews from disappointed fans and whilst I didn't absolutely love it I did think Melissa Explains It All was a good read full of interesting snippets about her life. ✯✯✯

Also read in January...
  • The Bookshop Book*, Jen Campbell (2014) ✯✯✯✯✯
  • The Island, Jen Minkman (2013) ✯✯✯
  • Pretty Little Liars, Sara Shepard (2006) ✯✯✯
- reviews to follow on Blogger's Bookshelf soon!

Reviews posted in January...
Currently reading... Dead Ends, Erin Jade Lange (2013)

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Quilt Update #5 - The 'Quilt Sandwich'

Long time, no quilt update! Although I completed the patchwork top back in the summer and tracked down a light grey cotton flat sheet to use for the backing shortly afterwards the project has been stored away for a few months. Early January saw me finally find the time, and more importantly space, to move onto the next step and create my 'quilt sandwich'.

I chose to use the simple pin basting method with curved safety pins. Due to space restrictions the only place I was able to lay the whole thing out flat was on the kitchen floor and whilst I'd read a lot about spray basting and how much time it can save, to me it didn't seem like the best option indoors!

As my quilt is a reasonable size and only just fits into the kitchen floor space I did have a little bit of trouble getting the fabric to lay flat, but a roll of masking tape, around 100 pins and a couple of episodes of Pretty Little Liars later and my quilt sandwich was complete! Next up; the actual quilting...

You can find my last quilt update here: Quilt Update #4

Sunday, 25 January 2015

DIY Chain Tassel Pendant

diy tassel pendant 1
Recently I've been seeing this jewellery trend pop up all over the high street, adding a statement to many simple necklace and earring designs. These pretty tassels made from lengths of chain can easily be replicated with just a few basic craft supplies and can really transform a necklace. Today I thought I would share a quick tutorial on how to create your own!

You will need: chain, jump rings, jewellery wire or an eyepin, a bead cap (without hanging loop), a bead/s, a clasp, flat & round nose pliers

diy tassel pendant 2

1. First up you'll need to cut a short strip of wire (2-3" should be fine depending on the size of your bead/s) then use pliers to create a loop at one end. To do this use flat nosed pliers to bend the wire at a right angle then round nose pliers to create the loop itself.

The loop will need to fit inside your bead cap later on so make sure it's not too big!Alternatively choose an eyepin - a length of wire with a readymade loop - of the correct size for your bead cap.

2. Next cut strips of your chain (choose the length depending on how long you want the finished tassel to be) and thread a few of them onto jump ring. Repeat this step until you have enough chain to create a full looking tassel the correct size for your bead cap - I only used two jump rings twelve strips of chain for my tassel.

diy tassel pendant 3

3. Take your wire loop from step 1, carefully open it using pliers, and thread on the jump rings with the chain attached.

4. Thread your bead cap onto the wire so it sits over the top of your wire loop and jump rings.

diy tassel pendant 4

5. If you're also adding on any beads thread them onto the wire above the bead cap.

6. Next you'll need to secure everything in place. To create a hanging loop above the bead use your flat nosed pliers to bend the wire out at a right angle about 1cm above the top of the bead. Use round nosed pliers to create a loop as shown above.

diy tassel pendant 5

7. Tightly wrap any remaining wire around the exposed cm of wire underneath the loop and secure in place with pliers.

8. To turn the pendant into a necklace take another length of wire (use my Guide To Necklace Lengths to help decide how long you need the chain to be) and add on a clasp using jump rings. Use one final jump ring to attach your tassel pendant onto the chain and your necklace is complete!

Alternatively chain tassels can also be used to make a pair of statement earrings. Use jump rings to attach them on to earring wires instead!
diy inspiration chain tassels

Don't fancy a DIY? Red Beaded Tassel Necklace, Matalan £3.50 (on sale) | Long Chain Tassel Necklace, Dorothy Perkins £7 (on sale) | Long Tube Tassel Necklace, Topshop £14 | Long Pendant Necklace, John Lewis £20 | Long Necklace With Loop & Tassels, Matalan £7

As always I'd love to hear from you if you try out this or any other project from my DIY Archives - use the links below to share your photos with me! Happy DIY-ing!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Library Haul #7

library haul 7

Symbiont, Mira Grant (2014)
Back in 2013 I received a review copy of Parasite, the first book in Mira Grant's Parasitology series, and was won over by the intriguing concept. When I heard about the release of the sequel I was pleased to find that my local library had a copy and am now looking forward to finding out what happens next!

Pretty Little Liars, Sara Shepard (2006)
Having recently caught up on the TV series from the pilot right through to the latest episode (in an embarrassingly short amount of time - thanks Netflix!) I was keen to pick up the first in this series of sixteen novels to see how they compare. Although I haven't quite finished the Lying Game series yet I've really enjoyed it so far and despite hearing some not-so-kind reviews I'm still hoping the first in Shepard's PLL series will be a good quick read.

The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting, Holly Bourne (2014)
This one was a Goodreads recommendation and honestly is a little bit of a mystery to me. I don't know too much about the book and I'm not sure if I would have picked it out myself but I'm looking forward to something that will hopefully be a little bit different... although I might not have time to read it before it's due back!

Have you read any of these books?

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

DIY Inspiration - Valentino Floral Collar Sweater

DIY inspiration Valentino floral sweater
This eye catching Valentino piece (retailing at £1,560) shows how simple embellishments can transform a plain wardrobe staple into a unique piece.

There are several ways to get the look - try your hand at applique with some floral fabric for a 2D take, stitch fabric flowers or flower beads onto a plain jumper for a permanent floral fix or alternatively DIY yourself an embellished collar necklace that would be perfect for recreating this look without having to commit to it!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Less Toxic Nails? - Hopscotch Kids Miss Mary Mack (Water-Based)

hopscotch kids water based nail polish in miss mary mack swatch review

The second contender in my quest to find the best 'non-toxic' polish is this little sparkling black number, named Miss Mary Mack, from children's brand Hopscotch Kids. Water-based polishes were high on my list after reading a lot about how they are much better for you health-wise and having seen some brilliant reviews for several brands.

As the brand is aimed at children the general colour range includes brights and pastels with Miss Mary Mack being the only dark shade currently on offer. As I personally prefer darker polishes I was a little disappointed not to see any options other than black however I understand that I'm not the target market and the range would be perfect for those who love brights and pastels.

Although not similar to that of traditional formulas the polish still has a distinctive scent, much like that of paint but I was pleased to find that this wasn't particularly noticeable whilst using the polish and didn't hang around on my nails afterwards. The consistency of this polish was much thicker than most making it very easy to apply and meaning only one coat was needed to achieve an opaque finish - overall I was very impressed with the application process!

Like all water-based formulas Miss Mary Mack needs longer to set than a traditional solvent-based polish but interestingly the formula works in the opposite way, drying from the top layer down. This means that it will be touch dry very quickly but the underneath layers take several hours to cure properly. The Hopscotch site advises applying the polish before bed to avoid any damage before it is fully set, and because it is water-based, exposure to water before the polish has fully cured can cause problems. With this in mind I applied the colour in the evening and in addition also blasted my nails with the hairdryer for a few minutes to help speed up the drying process. In the interest of keeping these 'less toxic nail' experiments as fair as possible I opted not to use a topcoat to truly test the wear of the polish.

Unfortunately, as you may be able to see from the photo, I woke up the next day to find that the polish at the very tips of my nails had already started to rub away. I'm still unsure why this happened as there are several things that may have affected how well the polish adhered to my nails. Although I followed the Hopscotch application guidelines (topcoat aside) and tried my best to be careful with them I did apply, as always, some hand cream for my eczema before going to sleep which may have interfered with the polish. I'm also unsure as to whether this particular brand, aimed at children and available for around a third of the price of most adult water-based ranges, is designed for long wear without the use of a topcoat.

Sadly the wearing away continued gradually and I chose to remove the polish after around five days. If you're interested in hearing about the removal of this water-based shade I'll be talking more about the process in an upcoming post!

Whilst I really love the concept of water-based formulas - easy application, no lingering smell, opaque in only one coat - and would definitely like to try some of the other brands available I was a little disappointed with the wear this time around. Having said that I will definitely be giving this shade another shot in future as after reading tips and tricks online a small extra step such as prepping the nails with jojoba oil, or perhaps investing in the Hopscotch Kids water-based topcoat could really improve the wear.

If you're just looking to experiment with water-based formulas and don't want to spend out a whole lot of money the Hopscotch Kids range is very affordable and definitely a good starting point.

If you're interested in finding out more about water-based polish I'd recommend popping over to Pretty Painted Nails which has some great information and swatches.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Character Style Inspiration - Maggie Esmerelda (AHS: Freak Show)

character style inspiration maggie esmerelda ahs freak show
Images via

For today's Character Style post I've once again taken inspiration from American Horror Story, this time focusing on Freak Show's faux fortune teller Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts).

Both Maggie's on and off-duty styles incorporate midi and maxi length skirts often paired with tops that are cinched in at the waist. For her role as a fortune teller in the show Maggie can be found sporting peasant style blouses with embroidered detailing however off the clock she tends to opt for classic short sleeve knits like those pictured above.

When it comes to accessorising wool felted hats, statement earrings, hair scarves and large decorative belts all make frequent appearances in Maggie's outfits. Beauty-wise her look reflects that of the early 50's era in which the series is set with bold red lips and soft, tidy pin curls.

Here are my top picks for a modern day take on this 50's look...

style inspiration maggie esmerelda - american horror story freak show

Shop the look: Latisse Embellished Top, Cashmere In Love via Farfetch £158.19 (on sale) | Eliza Statement Drop Gem Earrings, Boohoo £6 (on sale) | Tassel Embroidered Blouse, Mango £16.99 (on sale) | Woven Tapestry Handbag, Beyond Retro £22 | Green Felt Fedora Hat, Dorothy Perkins £14 | Embellished Belt, Deepa Gurnani via Farfetch £241.71 | Maxi Skirt, Naf Naf via Zalando, £60 (currently unavailable) | Ribbed Funnel Neck Top, Topshop £14 | Jungle Red Lipstick, NARS via Liberty £19.50 | 9ct Yellow Gold 35mm Large Creole Hoop Earrings, H. Samuel £139 | Suede Peep Toe Shoes, Dune via eBay £41

Love American Horror Story? Check out my other Character Style posts: Madison Montgomery | Violet Harmon | Zoe Benson

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Essex Walks - Little Hallingbury

essex walks little hallingburyessex walks little hallingbury
essex walks little hallingbury
essex walks little hallingbury
essex walks little hallingbury

This short walk starts by a mill with a path along the riverside followed by fields and past several paddocks - I even met a horse who wasn't keen to let us walk through his home! As this route is near to Stansted airport it wasn't as quiet and peaceful as it may appear with planes regularly flying overhead.

Once again the wintery weather conditions meant this 4 mile route took a little longer than the directions suggested and there were quite a few icy patches on the grass right at the beginning of the walk. Of course, just like last time I came home with mud covered boots!

You can find out more about this walk including a map and directions on the Essex Walks website.

Click here to catch up on my last Essex Walks post!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

DIY Spiral Stud Earrings

DIY Spiral Stud Earrings

After sharing a tutorial for some beaded spiral earrings back in December today I thought I would revisit the technique, this time in a simpler format to create these pretty spiral studs.

DIY Spiral Stud Earrings

You will need: wire, flat & round nose pliers, wire cutters, rubber earring backs, a file

1. Start by cutting a small strip of wire around 1.5-2" depending on how large you want the earrings to be. Use your round nose pliers to create a small loop at one end of the wire, this will be the centre of your spiral

2.Use your flat nose pliers to clamp the loop in place and wrap the length of wire around it creating a spiral. When you have around half an inch of wire left bend it slightly so it overlaps onto the back of the earring then bend the remaining wire out to create the earring post

3. The final step is to file down the wire so that the post isn't sharp. Repeat the process to create your second earring and they're ready to wear!

DIY Spiral Stud Earrings

As always I'd love to hear from you if you try out this or any other project from my DIY Archives - if you liked this project don't forget to Pin it - happy DIY-ing!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Less Toxic Nails? - Priti NYC 508 Rabbit Tracks

I can always be found with polish on my nails and have even posted many a nail art tutorial here in the past, but with persistent eczema on my hands and around my eyes I recently decided it was time to try making more considered choices about what I use on my nails. With this in mind I'm hoping to try out some of the various more 'healthy' alternatives from 3-free to water-based formulas and as I do so I'll be reviewing them here as well.

Today I'm starting off with Priti NYC's Rabbit Tracks after hearing about the brand over on Naturia Beauty. According to their website Priti NYC is a '4-free' brand creating polishes without the use of 'toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde and camphor'.

I opted for this deep grey-blue slightly teal shade, described on the website as a 'dark dusty turquoise', as an alternative to the deep red I've been sporting constantly for the last few months (Nails Inc Victoria) as unfortunately there isn't currently a similar shade available in the range.

I prepped my nails with a quick swipe of micellar water before painting them and was really impressed with both the application and colour, opting for no topcoat as the website describes the polishes as 'extremely durable and glossy'. The photograph above shows how the polish looks with just two coats although I would recommend applying three for a fully opaque finish. Although the polish was touch dry in a few minutes I did manage to get some 'duvet imprints' after mistakenly thinking they had dried completely, so I would recommend waiting a little longer than usual for the polish to set. Even without a base or topcoat the polish has lasted on my nails for over a week with only minimal chipping around the tips - pretty impressive for any brand.

As for the 'non-toxic claims' this formula, like traditional polishes, does carry an unpleasant "toxic" scent but I didn't find it to be quite as strong as many popular brands and it didn't linger for too long either. Overall I'm rather impressed with this Priti NYC shade!

Have you tried anything from the Priti NYC range?

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

One Very Small Reading Goal

bargain books guide Last year I handpicked 24 of the 100+ books sitting on my shelves and Kindle unread and challenged myself to make sure they were on my 2014 TBR. In the end I only managed to finish eleven of them amongst the 80-something titles I read over the year, so for 2015 I'm setting myself a much smaller challenge. Alongside the few titles I'll be 'vowing' to read over in the annual Blogger's Bookshelf collaboration I've decided to set just one other small reading goal for 2015; to re-read five books.

Just five re-reads may not seem like very many however in both 2014 and 2013 I had planned to find time for revisiting favourites and I failed miserably, getting caught up in new releases, Netgalley and a never-ending stack of library books.

This year I've also decided, for now at least, not to take part in the Goodreads challenge. For the past three years I have set a goal and managed to read over it each time but after completing my 2014 goal I decided that this year I don't want to set a target number. Of course I'll still be reading lots of books and was thinking of keeping some sort of list but after watching Priscilla's latest video (The Readables) I think I might join her in filling a jar with colour coded paper stars featuring the names of the books I've read - such a brilliant idea! This way I'll be able to tally them up when it comes to the end of the year but I'm happy not to keep count along the way.

What are your reading goals for 2015?

Sunday, 4 January 2015

DIY Drawstring Phone Pouch

diy drawstring phone pouch 1

If you're thinking about taking up a new hobby this year why not try sewing? In 2014, after years of putting it off, I became really enthusiastic about this craft and today I thought I would share a project I enjoyed making last year - perhaps one to try if you're a beginner! This handy pouch is lined with felt so there's no messing around with interfacing and it's a great way to practise the basics.

You will need: a strip of felt (half an A4 felt sheet), a strip of fabric the same width as your felt but 2" longer, a strip of ribbon & a large bead

Tools: a sewing machine, scissors, clover clips or pins, a ruler or tape measure, fray stopper (or clear nail polish), an erasable or fabric pen, fabric glue or hemming tape & a safety pin

Note: these measurements will fit a Samsung Galaxy S3 or similar sized phone, they will also fit most sunglasses. If you have a different sized phone/gadget or other object you want to store don't forget to adjust the measurements to fit!

diy drawstring phone pouch 2 diy drawstring phone pouch 3

1. Take your strip of fabric patterned side down and fold over 1" at each end. Measure 0.5" from each end of your fabric and draw a line using an erasable/fabric pen - these will be the guidelines to make sure your felt is central.

diy drawstring phone pouch 4

2. Use fabric glue or a small strip of hemming tape to secure the felt onto the reverse side of the fabric. Use the lines you drew in step 1 as a guide to line up where the felt should sit - it should be exactly in the centre!

diy drawstring phone pouch 5

3. Flip over your fabric so that the patterned side is face up and add on a line of topstiching a little way up from the edge of the felt on both ends. This will secure the fabric and felt in place and add a decorative look to the finished pouch.

diy drawstring phone pouch 6
diy drawstring phone pouch 7

4. Now its time to stitch up the fabric and turn it into a pouch! Fold the strip in half with the felt on the outside and clip or pin in place ready for sewing. Make sure the fabric on the inside is pushed down flat before you start to sew - particularly in the corners. If necessary use a knitting needle or something similar to make sure the fabric is pushed down flat.

diy drawstring phone pouch 8

5. Straight stitch down one side of the fabric between the fold and the topstitching you added earlier approx. 1/4" away from the edge. Don't forget to backstitch a little at the beginning and end to make sure its secure!

diy drawstring phone pouch 9

6. Your pouch should now look something like the photograph above. Repeat step 5 along the other edge.

7. To prevent any fraying you can use a zig zag stitch or similar alternative to overstitch along both edges of the pouch. Alternatively use your clear nail polish or fray stopper.

diy drawstring phone pouch 11

8. Use clear nail polish or fray stopper on the edges of the fabric at the top of the pouch which have not been stitched.

diy drawstring phone pouch 12

9. Trim off any excess threads then turn your pouch inside out so that the floral fabric is now back on the outside.

diy drawstring phone pouch 13

10. Take your length of ribbon and attach a safety pin onto one end. Thread the ribbon through the fabric at the top of the pouch so that the two ends of ribbon meet on one side.

diy drawstring phone pouch 14

11. Remove the safety pin, thread both ends of the ribbon through the bead and tie a knot to secure it in place. Trim off the ends of the ribbon and again use your nail polish or fray stopper to prevent any fraying.

Use the pouch to store your phone, sunglasses or anything else you like!

As always I'd love to hear from you if you try out this or any other project from my DIY Archives - use the links below to share your photos with me! Happy DIY-ing!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Essex Walks - Bumbles Green

Essex Walks Bumbles Green
Essex Walks Bumbles Green
Essex Walks Bumbles Green Essex Walks Bumbles Green
Essex Walks Bumbles Green
Essex Walks Bumbles Green

Since getting my first ever pair of proper walking boots late last year I've been able to go out on some adventures during the cold winter months. Having brought my trusty camera along with me I thought it might be nice to kick off 2015 with the first in a new 'walks' blogging series, sharing photo diaries of some of the lovely places I visit.

The first place I wanted to share was Bumbles Green near Harlow which I visited back at the beginning of December. The walk is about 6.5 miles and although the description suggests a time of 3 hours it ended up taking around 4 hours to complete due to all of the mud (there was so much mud!). A lot of the route runs through fields but there are also views across London once you reach the top of the hill on the first part of the walk (as shown in second photo above).

You can find out more about this walk including a map and directions on the Essex Walks website.
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